Sudden commencements (SCs) are rapid increases in the northward component of the surface geomagnetic field, related to sharp increases in the dynamic pressure of the solar wind. Large rates of change of the geomagnetic field can induce damaging currents in ground power networks. In this work, the effect of SCs on the (1 min) rate of change of the surface magnetic field (R) at three U.K. stations is investigated. The distributions of R during SCs are shifted to higher values than the data set as a whole. Rates of change greater than 10 nT/min are 30–100 times more likely during SCs, though less than 8% of the most extreme R (≥99.99th percentile) are observed during SCs. SCs may also precede geomagnetic storms, another potential source of large R. We find that the probability of observing large a R is greatly enhanced for 3 days following an SC. In the 24 hr following an SC it is 10 times more likely than at any given time to observe rates of change between 10 and several hundred nT/min. Additionally, between 90% and 94% of data (depending on station) above the 99.97th percentile is recorded within 3 days of an SC. All values of R ≥ 200 nT/min in the United Kingdom have been observed within 3 days of an SC. These results suggest that accurately predicting SCs is critically important to identify intervals during which power networks at similar geomagnetic latitudes to the United Kingdom are at risk from large geomagnetically induced currents.